Traveling by air often comes with logistical issues, considering transportation to and from the airport captures a large share of passengers’ strategic bandwidth. In some cases, transportation after landing is as much an issue for pilots and crew members as it is for travelers. Uncertainty around transportation from the airport can cause flight crews to incur unnecessary expenses and stress. The Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport has recently moved to ease these concerns through the introduction of a courtesy car, which for a small fee, can be rented for trips into town.
The courtesy car is owned by the City of Mt. Pleasant and was introduced to attract more business to the airport, which already provides $7 million of economic activity to the Mt. Pleasant area. The courtesy car is used primarily by both pilots and the airport.
“Airport staff researched this prior to implementation,” says Mt. Pleasant city manager, Aaron Desentz. “Many other small airports have courtesy vehicles. We found through talking with pilots that other airport destinations were used if the pilot was able to go there due to the lack of a courtesy vehicle [at the Mt. Pleasant airport].”
“Pilots have been the largest customers of the courtesy car. It allows them to take quick trips to local restaurants or other destinations of business,” Desentz continues, adding the addition of this courtesy car has helped the Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport attract and retain more business than before.
While it is available to all airport customers, its primary usage group is pilots, as its implementation was geared towards the needs of captains.
“High profile visitors are more likely to use other driving services and/or rental cars,” says Desentz. “The courtesy car is only allowed to be used for a few hours at a time. It serves an underserved market that does not typically use other driving services.”
The addition of the courtesy car was an intelligent business strategy, but there were a few challenges that stood in the way before the plan came to fruition.
First, the City needed to find a suitable car. Buying a new car would have been costly, and it would have taken more time to provide a return on investment; therefore the City decided to look internally for an acceptable car.
A solution was found in a retired police cruiser—but this vehicle was not without an entirely new set of challenges. Its primary issue being that the City could not allow pilots to drive the streets of Mt. Pleasant in a marked police car, whether it had been retired or not.
A police car from the City’s fleet has been redesigned and repurposed to provide transportation for visiting flight crews and pilots throughout town from the Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport, located at 5453 E Airport Rd. (Photo courtesy Bill Brickner, Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport manager)
To avoid sudden deputations of the courtesy car’s users, the cruiser, a Ford Crown Victoria, received heavy cosmetic updates. The car, post-makeover, would be difficult to mistake for anything but an airport courtesy car. However, the new look, and the courtesy car program as a whole, was not without expenses.
For help covering these costs, the City partnered with several local organizations—all of which have a vested interest in supporting the airport and its business. This mutually beneficial partnership allowed the courtesy car program to finally come to life.
“The City was able to utilize a former police cruiser as a means of saving money. From there, donations from pilots and a grant from the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau helped fund the rest of the program,” says Desentz.
He also acknowledges the support the City received from several other partners, saying, “We are happy to do this with support from our partners at Union Township, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, Middle Michigan Development Corporation, Isabella County, and the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.”
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